By Ali Imran
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Sunday said it was resuming flight operations to Saudi Arabia after the Gulf country announced the reopening of borders and the resumption of international flights following a two-week suspension aimed to stem the spread of a new Covid-19 strain.
A PIA spokesperson said that passengers would be able to travel to Saudi Arabia from yesterday after a notification was issued by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation allowing the resumption of flight operations.
Previously, Pakistanis were only allowed to return from the country. “Passengers can contact the PIA call centre on 111 786 786 or visit the offices to activate old bookings or make new ones,” the spokesperson said, adding that a Covid-19 PCR test would be mandatory for all passengers before travel.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said the government ordered the lifting of “precautionary measures related to the spread of a new variant of coronavirus”, the Saudi’s media reported.
Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 363,000 cases, including over 6,200 deaths the highest among the Gulf Arab states but has also reported a high recovery rate.
Riyadh suspended international flights and access through land crossings and ports on December 21.
Other Gulf countries, Oman and Kuwait, who had taken similar measures, have also lifted them in recent days. But travellers returning from Britain, South Africa or “any country where the new variant of the coronavirus is spreading” are subject to more restrictions, the statement added.
Foreigners coming from those countries must spend 14 days in another country before entering Saudi Arabia, and show a negative test.
Saudi nationals returning from those countries will be able to enter directly but must then spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival, and be subject to tests.
Last month, Saudi Arabia was one of the first Gulf countries to launch a massive vaccination campaign using the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.